Learn how to Use a Grey Card in Your Images (Step By Step)

The submit How to Use a Gray Card in Your Photography (Step By Step) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by John McIntire.

how to use a gray card in your photography

What’s a grey card, and how are you going to use one in your images?

On this article, I’m going to handle all issues gray-card associated. I’m going to share the aim of a grey card, when it’s wanted, and – most significantly! – learn how to use a grey card for lovely publicity and colours in your photographs.

These little equipment begin at lower than $10, but they offer you an enormous quantity of management over your photos, and they are often invaluable in difficult conditions.

So to grasp grey card images, learn on!

What’s a grey card in images?

A grey card is precisely because it sounds: A card that’s grey. Extra particularly, a grey card is mostly center grey, or 18% grey. They are usually small, transportable, gentle, and straightforward to whip out of a digital camera bag when essential.

Sure sorts of photographers by no means {photograph} with grey playing cards, reminiscent of avenue photographers, wildlife photographers, and (most) panorama photographers. However different photographers, together with portrait photographers and product photographers, hardly ever go away dwelling with out one. Why? I clarify that within the subsequent part:

Why are grey playing cards vital?

Bear in mind how I stated {that a} grey card is center grey, also referred to as 18% grey?

This quantity is vital as a result of 18% grey is what your camera’s meter is making an attempt to calculate when it determines an accurate publicity for a scene. In the event you put a grey card in entrance of your topic and take a meter studying, you’ll get a balanced publicity no matter any tonal distinction within the scene.

Now, you may be questioning: What about my digital camera’s meter? Why can’t I depend on it for a great publicity?

Digital camera meters are very, superb, however they make errors, particularly when confronted with vital tonal distinction, in addition to scenes which might be naturally very gentle (e.g., a snowstorm) or very darkish (e.g., a black rock).

The scene beneath is a difficult one for a digital camera meter to deal with, due to the brilliant highlights on the meals and the darkish wooden of the desk:


Grey playing cards have a second vital use:

They provide a very impartial floor for white balance calculations. In contrast to most colours in a scene – blues, yellows, greens, and so forth. – a grey card has no pure temperature or hue. So by coaching your digital camera on a grey card, you possibly can set an ideal white steadiness for all the things you {photograph}. That is notably vital when you’ll want to faithfully recreate colours in your photos, both for industrial functions or scientific/report photographs.

Though the essential white steadiness settings in cameras will be fairly good, they do are likely to battle at instances. For instance, tungsten bulbs can fluctuate drastically in color temperature, relying on their high quality and energy output. This will likely result in the tungsten setting in your digital camera failing to offer you an correct illustration of colours, therefore the necessity for a impartial grey card.

Do you want a grey card?

Grey playing cards are useful, however they don’t work for each kind of images. For one, if the topic is transferring, then a grey card calculation is basically nugatory; inside a number of moments, the scene will change, and also you’ll must take one other studying, and one other, and one other, which is greater than a bit annoying. Think about a avenue photographer, who goes backwards and forwards from shadow to daylight whereas photographing topics on the transfer. A grey card could be ineffective, because the publicity and white steadiness would want recalibrating from second to second.

Moreover, a grey card solely works in case your topic and the grey card are illuminated by the identical gentle. But in sure genres of images – chook images and sports activities images, as an example – the topic could also be far off within the distance. That’s why chook photographers and sports activities photographers just about by no means use a grey card; there’s actually no level, given the space to the topic!

However, grey playing cards are excellent for managed taking pictures eventualities. In the event you’re photographing meals, merchandise, or portraits, then a grey card is extremely useful. You will get near your topic, take a grey card studying, and depend on it for a whole taking pictures session. Plus, grey playing cards are sometimes essential in these eventualities, as you could precisely symbolize the product and meals colours.

Learn how to use a grey card for excellent exposures

A grey card is the closest factor you’ll get to a magic bullet; it’s going to give a close to excellent publicity in virtually any scenario. So how does it work?

First, set your digital camera to spot metering mode, which tells your digital camera to meter off a small spot within the middle of the body. Whereas this isn’t completely essential, it’s going to assist rather a lot, particularly in circumstances the place you can’t fill the whole body with the grey card.

Subsequent, put the grey card in your scene, proper on the middle of the body. Swap your digital camera over to Manual mode and set the publicity (based mostly in your digital camera’s meter studying).

Taking a meter reading with a grey card.

Then take the grey card away. So long as the sunshine doesn’t change, you’ll now have an correct publicity for all subsequent photographs you are taking of the scene.

Simple, proper?

Metering with a grey card: fast ideas

Listed below are a number of hints to make the grey card metering course of simpler and extra correct:

First, after metering, be sure that your topic stays in the same place relative to the sunshine supply. For instance, when you’re taking headshots outside and the solar is lighting your topic from the entrance, make sure that your topic stays frontlit. In the event you flip your topic to the facet, flip fully round, or head into the shade, that can have an effect on your publicity and you will want to take one other grey card studying.

Once you’re taking the meter studying, fill the body with the grey card as a lot as attainable. This may be certain that your meter solely exposes for the cardboard and not something across the edges.

Learn how to use a grey card for an ideal white steadiness

There are two methods to set your white steadiness with a grey card:

First, you possibly can set your digital camera’s customized white steadiness.

Second, you need to use Lightroom (or your favourite post-processing program) to set a white steadiness on your photos (although due to the grey card, the white steadiness shall be constantly excellent).

Shifts in White Balance - Left: Daylight Center: Tungsten Right: Custom

Shifts in White Stability – Left: Daylight – Middle: Tungsten – Proper: Customized

Methodology 1: In-camera customized white steadiness

The approach described right here is for Canon customers. In the event you use Nikon, Sony, or some other model, you will want to seek the advice of your handbook for directions on setting a customized white steadiness, although the method shall be considerably related.

  1. Take a photograph of your grey card. Attempt to be sure that the cardboard is flat and that it’s lit evenly. It ought to fully fill the body and mirror the positioning of your topic.
  2. Open your digital camera’s menu and choose the choice labeled “Customized White Stability” (or Customized WB). When prompted, select the picture of your grey card. Set the digital camera’s white steadiness to make use of the brand new customized setting and begin taking photographs.


Observe: If the lighting or course of your scene modifications, simply repeat the steps above. Your entire photos could have an correct white steadiness!

Methodology 2: Submit-production customized white steadiness

For this white balancing methodology, you solely must do one factor together with your digital camera:

Take a photograph of your grey card earlier than taking pictures every new scene.

(It could assist with group when you begin off any sequence of photographs with the grey card picture. This fashion, you’ll at all times know which picture to make use of for a white steadiness setting.)

So when you’re photographing a meals images setup, you’d place a grey card within the scene, take a single shot, then proceed on together with your images. If the scene or the lighting modified, you’d add the grey card as soon as extra, take a shot, and so forth.

Many photographers use a ColorChecker Passport for the sort of white steadiness course of:


Observe that the grey card doesn’t must fill the body; it simply must be current within the shot. So you possibly can arrange your whole scene, put the grey card in entrance of your topic, then take a single image.

As soon as your photoshoot is full and also you open up the photographs in Lightroom, the steps are fairly easy:

Step 1: Choose the picture of a grey card and enter the Lightroom Develop module:


Step 2: Choose the eyedropper device in your White Stability settings. Click on on the grey card in your photographs. This may regulate the white steadiness for an ideal consequence.

Step 3: Press Ctrl+Shift+C to repeat your settings (Cmd+C on a Mac). Verify the White Stability containers, however go away the entire different containers unchecked.


Step 4: Choose the entire photographs you need to appropriate, then press Ctrl+Shift+V to stick the white steadiness setting (Cmd+V on a Mac). Now all of photographs you took ought to have a corrected white steadiness!


Learn how to use a grey card: ultimate phrases

The entire strategies outlined listed below are easy and fast, but they provide an enormous quantity of management over your publicity and white steadiness. That’s why a grey card is without doubt one of the most cost-effective equipment you should purchase!

So when you don’t but personal a grey card, contemplating grabbing one. And when you do, go forward and observe these strategies! Take a look at the grey card out for your self! You’ll love the outcomes.

Now over to you:

Do you intend to make use of a grey card? Which of those strategies did you want finest? Have you ever completed grey card images earlier than? Share your ideas within the feedback beneath!

The submit How to Use a Gray Card in Your Photography (Step By Step) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by John McIntire.

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